To ensure that your workers are as safe as possible on work sites, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is, of course, pivotal. We all know that, but it’s surprising how often people – both workers and even site managers – are not aware of what, specific, pieces of PPE are required for the circumstances of the environment.

Context matters, essentially. However, one of the most common pieces of equipment that you’ll find that just about every site needs some level are electrical insulating gloves. These gloves are designed to shield workers from electrical hazards, providing a barrier between the worker and the energised equipment they handle. Given the prevalence of electricity on site, it therefore stands to reason that many people there will need protection from it – and yet, again, it’s often overlooked on sites. We all take electricity for granted and, sometimes, that can lead us to overlook the risks they pose people in terms of shocks, burns, and other potential injuries.

What are electrical insulating gloves?

Electrical insulating gloves are made from materials that resist the flow of electricity, such as rubber or latex. They are designed to withstand specific voltage levels, and their effectiveness is measured in terms of their dielectric properties and the thickness of the material. The gloves are categorised into different classes, each designed to provide protection from the risk of a specific maximum voltage.

The quality of an electrical insulating glove is crucial for ensuring safety. A good glove adheres to safety standards such as AS/NZS 2161.3:2020 or EN 388, which specify requirements for glove design, innocuousness, comfort, and efficiency in use. Yes, it’s important that these gloves offer comfort, firstly so they don’t get ignored by workers on site, and secondly so that they don’t become a distraction that might expose the worker to additional risks.

Additionally, these standards also define the testing methods for assessing the glove’s resistance to mechanical risks, chemicals, micro-organisms, heat, and cold.

Why quality matters

These gloves can become unsafe for any number of reasons. For example, wear and tear is a common issue, given how worksites tend to be rough on equipment, and this can compromise the integrity of gloves that previously would have passed the standards tests.

Worn spots, snags, pulls in a knit glove shell, or peeling palm coatings are some common warning signs of a worn-out glove. Ignoring these signs may undermine a glove’s ability to provide resistance to electricity.

So, gloves need to be replaced?

Knowing when to replace electrical insulating gloves is essential for maintaining safety. Gloves should be replaced regularly, and multi-use gloves should be maintained and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Visual signs often indicate when gloves have reached the point of being worn out. Look for colour variations in the coating and liner, for instance. But it’s also important to listen to the workers themselves. If they’re asking for a replacement for their protective equipment, then make the investment, because ultimately, they’re the ones that understand best the conditions they’re working in, and what the protective equipment feels like to wear and use.

What are the risks of not using the right protective equipment?

Under Australian law, organisations are required to ensure that any work environment is as safe as possible. This doesn’t mean that accidents can’t happen, but every measure should be taken to ensure that workers are as safe as possible, even in the event that a risk emerges on-site.

If a worker is hurt on-site, and the organisation hasn’t met its obligations for worker safety, then two things happen: firstly, the business loses one of its staff, and in such a tight employment market that can be a critical loss of skills and capabilities.

However, the organisation can also be liable to pay worker’s compensation and, in extreme cases, the organisation’s leadership could even face criminal charges for negligence.

Of course, most businesses out there want to do right by their people and protect them while they’re at work. Beyond the legal obligations, there’s the moral and ethical imperative, and that’s more than enough to motivate most business leaders. The cost of good quality protective equipment, including electrical insulating gloves, is a small one to pay.

NECA are the experts in everything to do with PPE. If you have any questions about what equipment you might need for your worksite or team, contact us for more information.